A retired Supreme Court judge called for compassion after a Delta police officer’s struggle with opioid addiction led him to falsify prescriptions before finally finding help.
Const. Geoffrey Young was the subject of a police investigation in 2015, when he was found to have falsified a number of prescriptions for hydromorphone — a type of opioid painkiller.
Police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe ordered a review on the record, as he felt the discipline Young received following the investigation didn’t go far enough. Lowe recommended that Young be fired from the DPD because his dishonest actions were a matter of public trust.
Retired Supreme Court judge Carole Lazar, who conducted the review, disagreed. Instead, she argued that Young’s actions could largely be traced back to issues with drug manufacturers and prescription practices.
Young, 41, had been living with painful ulcerative colitis since his 20s. This disease had caused him to be hospitalized several times in his adult life, including a number of times in 2014 for painful perianal abscesses. During those hospital stays, Young was put on regular doses of hydromorphone. When he was released from the hospital, he was given additional pills so he could continue to manage his pain at home.
A specialist in addiction medicine, who reviewed Young’s drug use during this period, found that Young was being given prescriptions for hydromorphone that was two and a half times higher than “watchful dose” established in 2010. It was 10 times higher than the standard that would be set by the College of Physicians two years later.
Eventually, Young realized he was addicted to the painkillers. He went to a number of different doctors with the hope of dealing with his addiction, but found few supports.
“Young faces the possibility of losing his job because as a police officer he holds a position of public trust,” Lazar said in her decision. “Ironically, that very position in society limited him as he sought help.”
Her decision went on to say that one doctor told Young he could buy drugs off the street or go to a methadone clinic — something Lazar said would be unacceptable for a police officer.
Between April and July 2015, Young began to falsify his prescriptions, increasing both the number and the strength of the pills on the prescription. Just before the police investigation, Young went to Peace Arch Hospital for a prescription, changed it and attempted to get it filled at a pharmacy. He also returned to the hospital the same day for another prescription.
RCMP were investigating a complaint made by the pharmacy about Young’s prescription when they heard he was back at the hospital. He lied to the RCMP, saying he had lost his last prescription.
After Young’s arrest, he “was ready to discuss what had happened in an honest and straightforward manner,” Lazar’s decision reads. Although he expected to be fired, he received support from Chief Neil Dubord and other members of the department. The DPD’s HR department helped him check in to a residential treatment centre in December 2015. He was discharged in February 2016.
Young returned to work in May of this year.
In Lazar’s decision she said that, although Young behaved in a disreputable way, his spotless record before the incident and the issues with the pain killer industry as a whole indicated his case should be treated with compassion.
“The general public is well aware of the crisis that has been created [by opioid drug manufacturers] and, in my view, they would not lose respect for a police disciplinary process that failed to dismiss an otherwise good officer,” Lazar said in her decision.
Young is still subject to a number of conditions, including continued monitoring, but will be able to continue his work as a police officer in the Delta Police Department.
The decision notes that the addiction protocol Young is following has a 75 per cent success rate after five years — and if he were to fall back into addiction, his colleagues would likely notice any changes in behaviour and provide support.